Miles Bridges, Michigan State’s star sophomore forward, is one of more than 25 players mentioned in the FBI’s ongoing investigation into college basketball corruption involving agents funneling money to recruits, according to documents obtained by Pete Thamel and Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports.
There’s a lot of information in the Yahoo report, and there isn’t any focus on any particular player. But Bridges’ name is mentioned, and he’s as high profile as any current college basketball player in there. Here’s what you need to know.
How did Miles Bridges’ name come up in the FBI’s investigation?
The FBI is investigating agents who have allegedly funneled money to college basketball players with the hope of getting those players to sign with them after college. The FBI announced some preliminary findings in October, and four college basketball assistant coaches were fired after their names were mentioned in the report. The FBI cautioned that this was just the tip of the iceberg, and reporting from Yahoo’s Thamel last week suggested some sort of reckoning for the sport was on its way.
Thamel and Forde’s story on Friday mentioned recruits who had met specifically with Andy Miller, a former NBA agent who has since “relinquished” his certification with the NBA Players Association. Thamel and Forde cite documents showing payments from Miller and his associates to various college players.
Those allegations of payments to players are amounts in the hundreds to multiple thousands, with former University of Utah star and current Los Angeles Lakers player Kyle Kuzma recorded as receiving $9,500.
The documents Miller and associates meticulously kept say he or his associates arranged for a payment of $400 to Bridges’ mother Cynthia. Bridges and his family are also alleged as receiving $70.05 for lunch with Miller and/or his associates.
Here’s what Yahoo listed for other current college players:
- USC ‘s Bennie Boatwright and/or his father, Bennie Sr., according to documents, received at least $2,000.
- USC’s Chimezie Metu and/or adviser, Johnnie Parker, according to documents, received $2,000.
- Texas’ Eric Davis, according to documents, received $1,500.
- South Carolina’s Brian Bowen and his family received at least $7,000 in benefits, according to the documents. That is believed to include $1,500 in plane tickets.
The lunch may not seem like a problem, but it’s still a violation of NCAA rules.
“There’s nothing wrong with meeting with an agent,” Atlanta lawyer Stu Brown told Yahoo. “But then it becomes a question of who pays for the meal.”
Yahoo’s report lists Alabama guard Collin Sexton, Duke forward Wendell Carter and Kentucky forward Kevin Knox as having met or dined with Christian Dawkins, one of Miller’s associates. Knox’s father has denied meeting Miller or Dawkins.
The documents in Yahoo’s report also list Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo as having dined with Dawkins. A new report Yahoo published later on Friday night names Dawkins as attempting to negotiate a trade with MSU assistant Dwayne Stephens that would have had former Spartan Gary Harris and Bridges agreeing to sign with Miller’s agency in exchange for the agents delivering former 5-star recruit Brian Bowen to East Lansing. This did not end up happening, though, and the details surrounding it are unclear.
So what does this mean for Bridges and Michigan State?
While there is no record of Bridges taking any money from an agent, the parent of a college athlete doing so would still be a violation of NCAA rules.
From NCAA rule 16.02.3, which addresses “extra benefits”:
Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their family members or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their family members or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., international students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability
That $470.05 would violate that rule, so Michigan State has a couple of options. One would be sitting Bridges until the team has all the facts and knows what punishments, if any, it would face for playing him. That’s what B. David Ridpath, president of the Drake Group, which advocates for academic integrity in college sports, advocated for in an interview with The Detroit News.
“I think in this case it would be pretty silly for Michigan State not to (sit Bridges) because you’re already looking at the presumptive penalty of at least a couple games, that it’s probably not a bad idea to sit him until this shakes out,” he said. “But it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if they said, ‘Hey, we don’t know the whole circumstances of this. The NCAA and the conference have to look at it.’ And they might play a delay tactic just to get through the tournament.”
Losing Bridges would be a giant hit for the Spartans, who could be in line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He’s the team’s leading scorer at 17 points per game, and Bridges’ absence would leave a huge hole in Michigan State’s frontcourt.
That’s not the direction Michigan State is heading. Michigan State announced Saturday that Bridges will play in the Spartans’ Sunday game against Michigan State.
“After learning of the allegations in yesterday’s Yahoo! Sports article, our compliance office conducted a thorough internal review,” AD Bill Beekman said in a statement. “Michigan State presented its findings to the NCAA, and Miles Bridges has been cleared for competition moving forward.”
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